Pericope: Scripture as written and read in antiquity











Discussion: Statement Wesley Hu

In the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 6 (2006) Wesley Hu raises a methodical issue:
"It seems that in the study of these ancient markers, the tradition behind each manuscript has not been given due consideration. To take de Moor’s study of Micah 6 as an example, based on the evidence available it is reasonable to argue that the tradition producing a manuscript of Micah 6 with two delimiters only (GW) was distinctive from the one that had five markers (GA). But this factor is not considered in his discussion and the neglect is a problem. It goes without saying that each tradition had its own history and ideology. In terms of the transmission of a text, history related the source of the text while ideology determined how that particular text was received and transmitted. In other words, what constituted a sense unit may differ to a great extent from one scribal tradition to another, even though they all used textual delimiters to mark their way of reading. Lumping the evidence together (a mixture of many ancient ideologies) and then weighing the evidence based on a particular modern ideology (e.g., De Moor’s method of analyzing poetry) in the hope of delimiting the units correctly seems to be flawed. The disregard for the distinct features in the ancient traditions cannot be reconciled with the call to appreciate the markers produced by these traditions."

Reaction by Johannes de Moor

Of course I agree that each reading tradition should be examined on its own merits, taking into consideration its own exegetical background. I have stated so repeatedly, and as a matter of fact, in all my recent publications on the value of unit delimitation I have taken great care to document and critically discuss any delimitations that deviate from the mainstream in great detail, especially in the endnotes. In my opinion Hu should have demonstrated that a mainstream, i.e. the remarkable phenomenon of the high level of agreement between channels of tradition that can hardly have influenced each other once they had been created does not exist. Moreover, far from 'lumping together' any evidence, I have always argued why I think that a certain tradition is erroneous while another is probably correct. Time and again I have referred to Jewish and patristical exegesis to explain a certain division of the text. Only after I have examined the available textual evidence with regard to unit delimitation I look at the structure of a passage. The method I employ then is based on the undeniable circumstance that all structural units of North-West Semitic poetry have been demonstrated to exist in antiquity, even centuries before the earliest portions of the Bible had been composed. It seems that Hu ignores the chaos created by western scholars imposing their own, undocumented rules to the structure of Hebrew poetry. Also it seems to have escaped him that it is normal for papyri (e.g. GW) to contain far fewer delimiters than both the leather scroll of the Minor Prophets from Nahal Hever (the oldest manuscript of G) and the later majuscles (like GA).


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